by Tom Dillingham
Every spring for more than fifty years, Stephens students have published a literary magazine to showcase the talents of the poets and fiction writers on campus. Since 1980, that magazine has been called Harbinger.
Harbinger is a magazine title with a purpose-it reminds us that while the written word records our meaningful past, it also offers insights into the future-in the case of the "Stephens College Magazine of Literature and the Arts," the 'future' will be the contributions of our students to the poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction of the coming years, a future presaged in their present efforts. As a college with a long history of fostering the arts, Stephens gives her students opportunities to perform as actors and dancers, to draw and paint and sculpt, and to express themselves in poetry and narrative. The stage and studio foster the former arts and allow them exposure to their audiences: for students whose medium is words, the literary magazine in its several incarnations has enhanced communication with their audience.
During the 1960s, Stephens literary magazine was called Portfolio (a near-synonym of the word 'magazine,' reflecting its role as a compendium of varied writings). Most issues were slim volumes, with a few graphics-photographs or line drawings. In 1975, the title was changed to Narcissus, and that delicate, self-regarding (or preferably, self-examining) figure continued to inspire submissions until 1980, when Harbinger-a more outward and forward-looking title-began publication.
During the '70s, the magazine expanded both in number of pages and in its experiments with a variety of formats, still including examples of graphic art. At that time, the faculty advisor was Eleanor Bender, who was also owner-editor-publisher of the nationally known poetry magazine, Open Places. Many alumnae will remember the lively, sometimes contentious, experiences of discussing the merits of submissions for Open Places, with the special excitement of handling manuscripts sent by poets as famous as Marge Piercy, Margaret Atwood, Marilyn Hacker, and Denise Levertov.
Students involved in the magazine publication course until 1987 had the opportunity to learn the processes and responsibilities of publishing a literary magazine both at the professional level and as interns working to produce their own publication-soliciting and evaluating manuscripts, planning the layout and printing styles, marketing and selling the final publication.
Each issue was likely to have a distinctive design, longer, shorter, wider or more colorful than the preceding issue. It is still a fascinating experience to look through the back issues as they reveal the creative design concepts of each editorial team. The recent issues continue this tradition: the issue dedicated to the memory of Gordon Manor-with its photographs of the building before and after the devastating fire-was a powerful example of the students' ability to capture the meaning of the past and the character of the present with a glance toward the possibilities of the future, in their publication.
Since Eleanor Bender left the College in 1986 and discontinued publication of Open Places, student editors have continued to benefit from the advice of creative writing faculty members with experience in publishing their own works and editing publications. Among these faculty were two alumnae, Leslie Adrienne Miller '78 (who has published three prize-winning volumes of poetry) and Brenda De Martini-Squires '80, as well as other members of the Department of English/Creative Writing program. More recently, advisers have included the poets Kris Somerville and Terry Song.
The magazine continues to be a dynamic and constantly evolving publication, reflecting the changing character of the editorial staff and of the students of Stephens College as a whole.